Linda Kasabian Testifies for Prosecution in Manson Trials – Will Tell of Slayings
Tuesday, July 28th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Jul. 28 – Prosecution star witness Linda Kasabian took the witness stand yesterday and said she wanted to tell the story of the Tate-LaBianca murders because “I feel the truth should be spoken.”
Mrs. Kasabian, a demure, pig-tailed blonde, was the eighth prosecution witness in the trial of Charles Manson and three female followers.
The 21-year-old mother is a codefendant in the case, but said she realized she would be granted immunity from prosecution and the charges against her would be dropped if she testified to what she knew about the mass murders last August of actress Sharon Tate and six others.
The first part of Mrs. Kasabian’s testimony was mainly about her background. She said she was born in Maine in 1949, was married to Robert Kasabian and has two children – a 2-year-old girl named Tanya and a 4-month-old boy, Angel, who was born while she was in jail.
Mrs. Kasabian said she first arrived in California in 1969 to attempt a reconciliation with her then estranged husband.
The reconciliation didn’t work out, she said, and she went to the Spahn movie ranch near Chatsworth on July 4 after a girl named “Gypsy” told her:
“There was a beautiful man (there) that we’d all been waiting for.”
The Spahn ranch was the stronghold of Manson’s so-called family at the time of the murder and the girl to whom Mrs. Kasabian referred is a member of the nomadic cult.
Mrs. Kasabian said she met Manson on July 5, 1969.
“He was up in back of the ranch in a cluster of trees,” she said. “He was working on a dune buggy. There were some girls with him.
“He asked me why I had come. I told him my husband had rejected me, and Gypsy told me I was welcome here as part of the family,” Mrs. Kasabian recalled.
Manson and his three codefendants, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, all but ignored Mrs. Kasabian when she entered the courtroom at 2 p.m.
As her name was called and she walked to the witness stand, Manson’s attorney, Irving Kanarek, leaped to his feet and said he objected to her testimony on the grounds “she is not competent and is insane.”
Mrs. Kasabian, wearing a blue and red long-sleeved dress, appeared bewildered by the courtroom fireworks and sat with her attorneys, Gary Fleischman and Ronald Goldman, during a lengthy conference at the bench of Trial Judge Charles H. Older.
Kanarek said he wanted a mistrial, apparently because of his allegations against Mrs. Kasabian. The Judge denied the motion at the bench, however.
While the attorneys were at the bench, Manson — who apparently has an almost hypnotic hold over his followers — glanced over at Mrs. Kasabian and put a finger over his mouth.
Mrs. Kasabian either stared straight ahead or talked with her attorneys and apparently was unaware of the gesture, which observers took to mean that Manson was asking the young woman to remain silent.
Mrs. Kasabian reportedly was an eyewitness to three of the seven murders.
Coprosecutor Vincent T. Bugliosi asked her if she was aware of the agreement for immunity.
“Yes, I am aware,” she said during frequent and loud objections by Kanarek.
Bugliosi asked her if there was any other reason for her testimony.
“Yes, I strongly believe in the truth and I feel that the truth should be spoken,” she replied quietly.
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Kasabian’s husband said that he was “glad” his wife was going to testify because “Charlie Manson has turned out to be a false prophet. God is on our side.”
During her testimony, Mrs. Kasabian sat in the witness chair with her hands folded in her lap and her legs crossed. The skirt of her peasant-style dress was pulled over her knees.
Most of the time she appeared expressionless, but every once in a while, she smiled when Kanarek would jump up to make an objection.
At times she glanced over toward the defendants, but it did not appear that she was staring at them or that they were looking back at her.
Manson, his long, dark hair sometimes covering his face, appeared to have a glazed look about him as Mrs. Kasabian continued to testify. His female codefendants, meanwhile, alternately giggled and turned around to look at spectators as Mrs. Kasabian talked.
It was later learned that the defense had asked Judge Older to hold a hearing on whether Mrs. Kasabian was competent to be sworn in as a witness.
Lawyers for Manson and the others were ready to try and show she was not competent by producing witnesses, including Mrs. Kasabian’s husband, who reportedly would testify the young woman on numerous occasions had taken the psychedelic drug LSD.
Mrs. Kasabian’s testimony was interrupted several times during the afternoon by objections from the defense and innumerable long conference, at the bench.
She said after she told Manson why she had come to the Spahn ranch, “he felt my legs and he seemed to think they were okay.”
Presumably, Manson told her to stay. She said she and her daughter spent the night in a cave behind the ranch.
Mrs. Kasabian testified she saw Manson one or two nights later, when he came to the cave.
During her month at the ranch, said the witness, she camped out with other members of the “family” at least twice.
She said the first time was a week-long campout in Devil’s Canyon at a spot called “the waterfall.”
The second time, Mrs. Kasabian recalled, was a week or so later and farther into the hills.
The witness noted she was not sure of the times because, “actually when I was there, I had no concept of time.”
Bugliosi apparently was questioning the witness, who probably will remain on the stand much of this week, about Manson’s alleged intention to take his family to the desert to avoid a black-white civil war.
The war, according to Bugliosi’s opening statement, was termed “helter-skelter” by Manson. The cult chieftain, said the prosecutor, got the phrase from a song by the Beatles.
In speaking of the “family,” which Mrs. Kasabian said she joined, she said:
“We lived together as one family…we were just all one and Charlie was the head.”
The defense objected repeatedly to so-called “hearsay” testimony from Mrs. Kasabian about Manson’s allegedly ordering “family” members to camp out.
Most of the objections were sustained by the Judge.
Bugliosi also contended during his opening statement that Manson felt the black-white civil war was late in starting and that he ordered the murders to precipitate it.
Manson, the coprosecutor told the seven-man, five-woman jury, wanted the murders to appear as if they had been committed by black persons.
The word “pig” was written in blood on the door to Miss Tate’s home and the words “Death to Pigs,” “Helter-Skelter” and “Rise” were scrawled in blood on the walls at the home of market owner Leno LaBianca and his wife.
The LaBiancas were stabbed to death at their Los Feliz home a day after Miss Tate and the others were killed.
Earlier in the day, Manson’s three codefendants appeared in court with “X’s” on their foreheads, taking a cue from their leader, who cut an “X” on his forehead last week.
The young woman used a needle and bobby pins to mark their “X’s”, Manson used a razor blade.
Testimony began last Friday as witnesses identified pictures of the victims and told of the events at Miss Tate’s home in Benedict Canyon the day before the murder.
Resuming testimony yesterday morning was William Garretson, a 20-year-old caretaker who lived in a guest cottage behind the Tate residence and attended to three dogs belonging to the actual owner of the estate, Rudy Altobelli.
Garretson, under cross examination, said he had met four of the victims killed at the Tate home last Aug. 9 — the actress, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish playboy Voityck Frykowsky, and Steven Parent.
Parent had visited Garretson in the guest cottage before he was killed.
The other person murdered was hairstylist Jay Sebring, a former boyfriend of Miss Tate.
The young man also admitted that once before the murders he had seen Frykowsky taking home movies at the swimming pool of a nude woman. He did not identify the woman.
Also testifying was Frank Guerrero, a house painter, who had been preparing a nursery for Miss Tate’s unborn son.
The actress, wife of film maker Roman Polanski, was about eight months pregnant when she was stabbed to death.
Polanski returned from Europe to bury his wife and their unborn child, then returned where he has remained for the past year.
Other witnesses testifying briefly yesterday morning were Tom Vargas. Miss Tate’s gardener, who said two trunks from Polanski were delivered to the home about 6:30 p.m. the day before the bodies were found.
Polanski had been scheduled to return to the United States for the birth of his child and Miss Tate reportedly had been planning a large birthday party.
Dennis Hearst delivered a bicycle to the estate about 7 p.m. Aug. 8 and said Sebring signed for it.
Hearst, now a UCLA student and employed by a bank, said Miss Folger had purchased a bicycle earlier in the week from the Beverly Hills shop where he worked and had wanted it exchanged. He brought the new bicycle and took the old one and left the estate about 7:20 p.m.
Everything appeared in order, Hearst said.
By SANDI METTETAL